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Making It Legal
Improvements in the rule of law over the past five years
By Lu Yan | NO. 39 SEPTEMBER 28, 2017
A court dealing with fishing issues opens on a fishing boat in Yunyang County, Chongqing Municipality, on July 13. The court is set up for the convenience of local fishermen. It has heard 287 cases since its establishment in September 2010 (XINHUA)

A documentary dealing with the less than entertaining topic of legal matters has recently gone on to capture the public's attention in China. According to statistics from China Central Television (CCTV), the six-part political documentary exploring the advances made in China's legal system over the past five years had more than 30 million views on multiple new media platforms of CCTV News, including via social media sites Weibo and WeChat.

Aired on August 18, The Rule of Law in China illustrates the improvements of China in this area since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in November 2012.

The rule of law has become a buzzword on the Internet since the documentary was aired. The episodes also aroused heated discussion among Chinese audiences.

"I can see that our country is gradually improving its legal system and overcoming shortcomings," a viewer pen named Tangtang said on Sina Weibo.

Zhuang Pingzhu, a community worker at Xiuying District in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province, feels more enlightened after watching the documentary. She said that it helps her have a better understanding of how China's rule of law is implemented. "With this in mind, I will bring this understanding to my work in future and provide better services for the residents at our community," she said.

Legal consciousness

Twenty years ago, the rule of law was adopted as the basic principle of administrating the country in the work report of the 15th CPC National Congress. In 1999, the concept was written into the Constitution of China.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, China has made unprecedented efforts in implementing the rule of law as a fundamental principle. According to the report by the 17th CPC Central Committee to the 18th CPC National Congress, the rule of law should be fully followed as a basic principle, law-based governance should be implemented, judicial credibility should be steadily enhanced, and human rights should be fully respected and protected.

President Xi Jinping, also General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, has attached great importance to promoting the rule of law and has pledged on numerous occasions to build a law-based socialist country.

"To implement the rule of law as the basic principle, and accelerate the building of a law-based socialist country, we should make laws through proper procedures, enforce them strictly, administer justice impartially and ensure that everyone abides by the law," Xi said in a speech in December 2012, to mark the 30th anniversary of the implementation of the current Constitution.

In his speech, Xi vowed to ensure everyone enjoys extensive rights in line with the law.

In October 2014, the CPC Central Committee convened a plenary session to further promote the rule of law. It was the first time a plenary session of the CPC Central Committee had taken the topic as its main theme.

In a statement released after the plenary session, the Party said it will further emphasize the role of the Constitution in China's legal system. It also aims to improve judicial independence, promote procedural justice, professionalize judicial officers, and build a law abiding government.

President Xi vowed to guarantee the authority of the Constitution and laws. No organization or individual is privileged to act beyond the Constitution or the law, and all acts in violation of the Constitution or the law must be investigated, he said in a speech to mark the 95th anniversary of the founding of the CPC in July 2016.

Results are tangible and concrete. In the past five years since the 18th CPC National Congress was held, China's legislative body has promulgated 20 new laws and approved 39 revisions concerning 100 pieces of legislation. Thirty-four administrative regulations have been made or revised. In May, China's national legislature passed the General Provisions of the Civil Law, which lays down basic principles for regulating civil activities. Laws and regulations concerning issues of people's daily lives, such as prevention and control of air pollution and public security, were introduced.

Progress has also been made in law enforcement and administration of justice. In the interest of clarity, governments of all levels have made public lists of rights and responsibilities of government organizations and limits of authority, so as to avoid corruption and overstepping of authority.

Currently, 25 provinces have set up platforms online to make law enforcement work more transparent to the public. There have been more than 600,000 court trials broadcast live.

"The goal of perfecting a government based on the rule of law has been gradually achieved by making administrative decisions according to specific procedures, strictly enforcing the law, and strengthening a supervision mechanism," Ren Jin, professor at the Law School of the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the People's Daily.

Students learn about the law at a Constitution Day activity in Beijing on December 4, 2016 (XINHUA)

People's needs

Meeting people's needs is one of the priorities for China in building a country based on the rule of law. Government agencies have speeded up their ability to resolve social problems to keep pace with a rapidly evolving society.

Xiao Xie has a good understanding of how the improvement of laws and regulations can help people change their lives. Born into a poor family in a village in Cangnan County, east China's Zhejiang Province, she didn't have an ID card because her parents had been busy working in large cities and delayed the procedure. Xiao was regarded as an unregistered person in her hometown for the first 28 years of her life, which deprived her of many rights—she couldn't receive high school education, get a proper job or register for health insurance.

This situation was changed because of a series of regulations on reforms of the household registration system. In September this year, Xiao got her first household registration. She is one of more than 13.95 million people who have the similar circumstances.

Many laws and regulations that meet people's needs have been carried out. At the end of 2015, the State Council issued a notice on simplifying and optimizing public service procedures, so as to make life more convenient. Some of these include judicial interpretation on telecom fraud and criminal cases, as well as improvement of inspections on food and drugs.

"We should make sure that our people can feel the benefit brought by the rule of law in everyday life," Jiang Bixin, Vice President of the Supreme People's Court, said in an article on

Copyedited by Francisco Little

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